Theme Of "The Lottery" By Shirley Jackson

Categories: Irony

"The Lottery" Shirley Jackson uses several literary elements to show why authority should be questioned and not taken for granted throughout the short story "The Lottery." Jackson uses the literary elements of irony, color, and point of view throughout the short story to demonstrate how authority should be questioned.

Irony is used throughout the short story to demonstrate why authority should be questioned. On page 63, Mr. Adams questions Old Man Warner about the purpose of the lottery explaining that in the other village, the lottery is no longer in effect.

Without a reasonable explanation, Old Man Warner shuts down Mr. Adams who obviously does not believe in the lottery. If Mr. Adams would push the issue more, Mrs. Hutchinson possibly would not of been brutally murdered for no reason along with many other people in future lotteries. This comment is ironic because people are afraid to put a stop to something that is obviously injustice to society simply because people are afraid to question authority and tradition.

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On page 64, Mrs. Hutchinson yell's to some other citizen's stating, "Make them take their chance!" This comment is ironic because she is the one later chosen to die by stones thrown at her from the very people that she is yelling at. Mrs. Hutchinson's death could have easily been prevented if someone, anyone had the guts to stand up for what they feel is right and justice.

Jackson uses colors to portray the mood of the story by frequently using the color black. The black box is tradition for the small town this story was based in, the citizens were afraid to question authority and get the box cleaned up, "but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box"¦the box grew shabbier each year.

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" The entire mood of the story was very somber, people acted fake, they were afraid to question authority or to be different. One of the papers put in the black box was stained black using coal; this stain represents a somber and evil mood in the story. This is a society where citizens are so afraid to be looked down upon that they will not question an immoral and injustice annual practice know as the lottery. If Jackson would have used the color blue or green, a positive lively color, then the story would not be so depressing and people would be happier in the story. Jackson effectively uses black to portray a sense of unhappiness and depression.

Point of view is another literary element used by Jackson throughout the story. The third-person point of view hides the thoughts and feelings of the characters. By hiding the characters thoughts and feelings, readers can only make assumptions based on the actions of the characters. Based on some of the characters' actions, it's obvious that many characters do not agree with the lottery and the practices of the town, but are simply scared to question the practices. Old Man Warner is never strongly questioned throughout the story; he seems to be the authority figure in the story, the one that the citizens do not question.

Shirley Jackson's book, 'The Lottery' is a short story which portrays an annually held lottery in a small town in England. The one who is picked by the lottery is then killed by the town members by being stoned. The story has a number of hints and symbols which contribute to the many themes in it. One of the themes is tradition. Tradition is something that is passed down from one generation to another with the hope that it will help the next generation in surviving and living in harmony. The theme of Tradition in Shirley Jackson's book is portrayed strongly as the villagers of a small town assemble at the Town's Square to hold a Lottery that seemed so harmless at first. This tradition was always performed on June 27 where families would gather together and wait for Mr. Summers to run the lottery.

It was a tradition that each family attended the lottery regardless of the outcomes or how busy they were; everyone simply had to show up even the children. The Town's people followed this tradition whole heartedly for many years. However some of the villagers like Mr. Adams tried to at least reason with the Town's elder Old man Warner about holding the lottery as many other villages and countries had dropped the lottery tradition but Old man Warner wanted to hear none of these because he believed that stopping the tradition could only cause more trouble to the village.

It is amusing and shocking how blindly the villagers follow the tradition of holding a Lottery despite knowing the fact that one person must die every time they held the Lottery. Most villagers are ignorant to the fact that some traditions like the lottery do not benefit the village in any way as it only brings pain and anguish to the families that lose their people through the Lottery tradition. This tradition judges people not basing on the offences one has committed but basing on whether or not your paper had been 'drawn' with a black dot. In the story; once the villagers had been called out by their names and given pieces of paper to open; it was known that one of the villagers by the name Tessie had her paper drawn with a black dot. Mr. Summers ordered the other villages to hurry up and grab stones. Tessie was killed through this process; she was stoned by people she thought were her close friends, her family members and even children, all in the name of following tradition.

In this story it is seen how the villagers simply follow tradition, not because they don't think it is bad but simply because they don't know how to follow anything else except what they found their predecessors doing. Nobody fully understands why this tradition was held or how it helped the village. Old man Warner tried to justify the purpose of holding the lottery by saying that not following the tradition would only create more trouble for the village. It is not clear how it would cause trouble since the lottery tradition itself was trouble because as Mrs. Tessie Hutchinson said, 'it is not fair'.

A sign of tradition can be something very simple, but it can also be very evil. The lottery has many symbols which show how a community does not abandon their ways of doing things easily. In order to maintain the tradition, the people of this town kill one of the villagers. The family of Mrs. Hutchinson was removed from a passed down black box which resulted in him being stoned. The reason behind this was that she was chosen by luck. When people are caught up in traditions and beliefs which have been overused, they become brutal; this is Shirley Jackson's humanity perception. This is an ancient story, but the symbolism still relates to today's life. Traditions can go on and on for a long time. This is symbolized by the black box which had all the names of every household. The black color of the box was a darkness and death symbol. This was to imply that such a traditional object could have a major impact.

Tradition is a main characteristic of humanity. Humanity has adhered to traditions which have been handed down from one generation to the next one. Most communities around the world do not have an idea of where or who started these customs, but they follow them blindly. In the story 'The Lottery', the townspeople practice the tradition of the lottery regardless of the consequences. Shirley Jackson narrates how the people of the town are blind to the repercussions caused by the lottery. This is because they are not willing to change their traditions but still follow the customs and traditions of the lottery.

Following traditions blindly can be very dangerous as seen in 'The Lottery' where someone gets killed for no reason at all. When the story begins, the author brings out the picture of a small village which prepares for a lottery which is seen not to be dangerous. By the end of the story, tables turn where someone who is innocent ends up killed. This blind following and authorization of the lottery therefore became a tradition in this town and murder was now part and parcel of them. This story enables us to understand the dangers of following traditions blindly as there are some traditions like the Lottery' which are of no beneficial value to the villagers and the Town in general.

In conclusion, Jackson's message is clear "" Authority should always be questioned and not taken for granted as well as a tradition! Jackson's use of irony, color and point of view to clearly present her message. She effectively, but casually presents her feelings towards the subject matter throughout the story using literary elements.


Updated: Dec 26, 2023
Essay's Scoring Result:
Expert's Assessment
The essay on "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson explores the theme of blind adherence to tradition and the reluctance to question authority. It effectively employs literary elements such as irony, color symbolism, and point of view to convey the message. The analysis of specific scenes and character actions adds depth to the argument. However, there are instances of repetitive language and some structural inconsistencies. The essay delves into the societal implications of mindlessly following traditions, but a more polished execution could enhance its impact.
How can you enhance this essay?
The essay effectively explores the theme of questioning authority and tradition in "The Lottery" but could benefit from streamlining and avoiding repetition. The analysis of literary elements is strong, but there's a need for more concise language to enhance clarity. Additionally, the structure could be refined for smoother transitions between ideas. Some points, like the symbolism of colors, are reiterated, requiring consolidation. Lastly, the introduction of Old Man Warner's perspective could be more seamlessly integrated into the broader narrative, enhancing overall coherence. Addressing these aspects would enhance the essay's impact and readability.
This essay's assessment was conducted by:
Ravi Patel
Cite this page

Theme Of "The Lottery" By Shirley Jackson. (2016, Jul 11). Retrieved from

Theme Of "The Lottery" By Shirley Jackson essay
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